Last Week in the News

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index rose two points in February to 17. It was the first gain in five months. Economists had anticipated a dip to 14. An index reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market.

The combined construction of new single-family homes and apartments in January rose 2.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000 units. However, applications for new building permits, seen as an indicator of future activity, fell 4.9% to 621,000 units.

Industrial production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities increased 0.9% in January, following an upwardly revised 0.7% gain in December. It was the seventh consecutive monthly increase. The overall factory-operating rate rose to 72.6% of capacity in January from 71.9% in December.

The producer price index, which tracks wholesale price inflation, rose 1.4% in January, following an upwardly revised 0.4% increase in December. Economists had expected a gain of 0.8%. The gains were largely due to higher energy costs.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose by 31,000 to 473,000 in the week ending February 13. Continuing claims for the week ending February 6 held steady at 4.538 million. Experts believe snowstorms in early February may have cost the economy as many as 100,000 jobs.

The index of leading economic indicators — designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months — rose a smaller-than-expected 0.3% in January after a revised 1.2% gain in December. It was the 10th straight monthly increase and the longest series of gains since 2004.

Consumer prices rose 0.2% in January. Excluding energy and food, the so-called core index unexpectedly slipped 0.1%, the first monthly decline since December 1982.

The Federal Reserve Board raised the discount rate charged to banks by a quarter-point to 0.75%.

Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on the housing price index on February 23, new home sales on February 24, and existing home sales on February 26.

 

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